How to Remove Rust Stains From Just About Anything

By Mary Hunt

January 17, 2018 4 min read

If there's one subject that shows up in my inbox more often than any other, it has to be rust: ugly orange-ish stains on tubs, showers, toilets, washing machines, sinks and even stainless steel.

One reader (who shall remain nameless, as I have hopelessly misplaced his message) wrote that tiny rust marks have appeared on his new stainless steel refrigerator! Sadly, the manufacturer considers this a cosmetic issue, so the warranty does not apply.

Today, for my nameless friend plus all others who've written about annoying rust problems, I have a story followed by a very effective, if not exciting, solution.

The year was 1882. The setting: Indianapolis.

A chemist took a break from his academic endeavors to cook up some rhubarb, that sour but hardy vegetable found often in the gardens of yore.

After plating his food, he found that his tarnished now fairly sparkled. He set out to discover what made the rhubarb a successful cleaning agent.

The secret was oxalic acid. It's found in rhubarb and other vegetables like spinach, and it attacks stubborn tarnish, rust and lime stains at the molecular level.

The chemist developed an oxalic acid-based cleaning powder and sold it to taverns as a brass rail polish. Tavern owners called the product — get ready — Bar Keepers Friend.

Over the years, the line of Bar Keepers Friend products has grown and expanded with variations in ingredients and packaging, but the products remain essentially the same as the ones that polished bar rails over a century ago.

Back to our collective problem with rust spots and stains, specifically rust on stainless steel: I have recently discovered a new BKF product called Bar Keepers Friend MORE Spray & Foam, which contains both oxalic acid and citrus acid — minus all abrasives. This is fabulous because the foam sticks to vertical surfaces. And, yes, I am now thinking of that new stainless steel refrigerator that has developed tiny rust marks. The foam will stick to those spots long enough to do its work before being wiped away with a soft cloth.

Bar Keepers MORE Spray Foam is safe for stainless steel, tile, porcelain, ceramic, fiberglass, aluminum, copper, brass and glass. As for the "MORE" in its name, that covers Mineral deposits, Oily residues, Rust stains and Everyday grime. Get it?

And now for the important fine print.

CAUTION: Always test any product in an inconspicuous place first. Always. DO NOT USE this product on wood, fabric, leather, mirrors, painted surfaces, gold, silver (sterling silver is OK) or natural stone surfaces like granite and marble.

Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

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